Hill Tribes, Halong Bay & Beyond - 13 days
From Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, discover Vietnam’s remote ethnic minority villages and go trekking in the beautiful Mai Chau Valley, cruise around the limestone peaks of picturesque Halong Bay and the floating markets of the Mekong, explore imperial cities and more on this 13 day tour.
Book a valid Vietnam Signature tour departing before 30th September 2019 and get a Hoi An Street Eats add-on for free! T&Cs apply.
Wednesday. Xin Chao! Welcome to Hanoi, one of Asia’s most enchanting cities, full of culture and history. You’ll be met at the airport and transferred to our hotel in the city centre. The rest of the day is free for you to rest at the hotel or independently explore the capital. Consider visiting the Ho Chi Minh complex, home to Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum (closed in the afternoon), the Presidential Palace or Ho Chi Minh’s famous House on Stilts.
Hanoi - Mai Chau. Early this morning we leave the hustle and bustle of Hanoi and drive west towards the Laos border. After a scenic 4 hour drive we reach the beautiful valley of Mai Chau, which is home to the White Thai ethnic minority group. Upon arrival we'll check into our lodge and have lunch at a traditional family-run guesthouse on stilts in a charming little Mai Hich village.
This afternoon we enjoy a leisurely walk through the back roads and rice fields of the valley for our first encounter with the Thai people, going about their daily lives. Returning to our lodge by car, spend the remains of the day at leisure. You can relax by the swimming pool or there are bikes for hire at the lodge for you to explore more of the countryside.
Overnight: Mai Chau | Breakfast, Lunch
After breakfast we drive through changing scenery to the mountainous province of Hoa Binh and the rocky plateau of Hang Kia. The rice paddies of the Mai Chau Valley are replaced with corn fields and plum trees as we enter the H'mong ethnic lands, where people are colourfully dressed and live in wooden ground floor houses. We are welcomed by a local H’mong family, who teach us about ancestral techniques and unveil the secrets of the H’mong fabric at a Batik workshop. Then we gain a further insight into H'mong culture as we enjoy lunch at a local home.
In the afternoon we take an easy paced, 3-hour hike downhill to the valley of Mai Chau, taking in the incredible views over wild stretches of remote land between the mountains. Our hike ends in a sub-valley of Mai Chau where our vehicle will be waiting to transfer us back to the lodge.
Please note: This is a relatively easy hike on single trails, although it can be rather slippery when wet. If you prefer not to hike, we can transfer you by road from Hang Kia back to the lodge in the afternoon, where you can enjoy some rest and relaxation.
Overnight: Mai Chau | Breakfast, Lunch
Mai Chau - Hanoi. This morning there's the opportunity to visit the local Mai Chau market before we travel on to Hoa Binh town to explore the fascinating Muong Culture Space Museum and learn about the lifestyle and culture of the Muong people. This unique museum was created by a local artist and is spread over 5 hectares of land in a small limestone valley, with women in traditional dress and traditional Muong stilt houses. We have lunch in Hoa Binh before travelling back to Hanoi, arriving mid afternoon.
Overnight: Hanoi | Breakfast
Hanoi – Halong Bay. This morning a scenic drive takes us to the spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay where two thousand rugged karst islands dappled with lush vegetation protrude from pristine emerald coloured waters. Here we board a deluxe junk boat for an overnight cruise around this beautiful bay.
Based on traditional designs, these wonderful vessels combine oriental style with modern luxury. Soak up the panoramic views from the sundeck as the boat gently plies its course, this afternoon we will visit the spectacular Tien Ong Cave which was recently opened to the public in 2010, with its stunning stalagmites and stalactites.
Later this evening back on board, watch a Vietnamese cooking demonstration held on the sundeck before settling down for a sumptuous seafood dinner.
Overnight: Halong Bay, Deluxe Junk Boat | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Halong Bay - Hanoi - Hue. Early birds can start the day with a relaxing Tai Chi class on the sundeck or a traditional massage - the perfect way to start the day. Before heading back to port we'll explore by kayak the Floating Village of Cua Van, which is home to generations of fishing families. Here we’ll see the traditional and colourful floating wooden houses and the locals going about their daily lives.
On our arrival back into Hanoi mid-afternoon we'll explore the maze of streets known as the ‘36 streets of the old quarter’, named after the numerous guilds that once set up shop on a particular street from silk tailors to silversmiths. Travelling by cyclo (rickshaw), the quintessential mode of transport in Hanoi, we'll see traditional narrow-front tube houses with the chance to sample some of the local delicacies sold on street stalls from ripe fruits to steaming noodle dishes.
Later this evening there's a chance to freshen up before boarding the train (4 berth sleeper cabin, basic standard) on the ‘Reunification Express’ railway line to Hue. An option to fly from Hanoi to Hue is also available.
Overnight: Sleeper train | Breakfast
Upon arrival to Hue we embark on a guided sightseeing tour of the 19th-century Nguyen empire capital. We visit the Thien Mu Pagoda, home to the oldest monastery in the city, whose 21m high tower has become something of a symbol for Hue and the citadel. Within the citadel is the Imperial Purple Palace, an exact copy of the Forbidden City in Beijing, with its impressive ramparts, formal moats and imperial palaces, some of which lay in ruin.
In the countryside lies the Royal Tombs of the Nguyen kings, here we’ll view the elaborate mausoleum of Emperor Tu Duc. As the sun sets opt for a cruise in a long boat along the gentle Perfume River or enjoy some retail therapy at the ever lively Dong Ba Market, a few minute's walk from our hotel.
Overnight: Hue | Breakfast, Lunch
Hue - Road of the Ocean Clouds - Hoi An. Today we take the scenic Hai Van Pass (Road of the Ocean Clouds), which offers magnificent views of beaches to one side and lush hills to the other. En route we stop for a walk along My Khe beach, a beautiful stretch of coastline which was nicknamed 'China Beach' by the Americans during the war and famously featured in Francis Ford Coppola’s movie ‘Apocalypse Now’. Perhaps enjoy a refreshing swim in the sea before continuing our journey south along the coast to Hoi An.
The charming, old-world trading port of Hoi An with it cobbled streets, traditional homes and tiny shop houses is a perfect place to lose yourself in a by gone era. Boutique restaurants, hip cafes along the waterfront, delightful craft shops and artisans including some of Asia’s best bespoke tailors (whose services come at a nominal price), all can be found here.
On a short walking tour of the enchanting historical town, we’ll visit the Chua Ong Pagoda, Chinese Assembly Hall, 200-year-old Tam Ky house, former merchants’ homes and the 400 year-old Japanese Covered Bridge.
Overnight: Hoi An | Breakfast
A leisurely bike ride into the countryside, leads us to Tra Que village today. Here we discover age old farming practices and learn about traditional medicine. It’s a fun, hands on experience where you can try your hand at tending the fields before we enjoy an interactive cooking demonstration, preparing a tasty lunch for ourselves.
Overnight: Hoi An | Breakfast, Lunch
A free day for you relax or further sightsee. You may wish to take a relaxing rowboat journey along the river or spend the day lazing by the beach or hotel pool. It’s also possible to take an optional excursion to the most holiest and evocative of Vietnam’s Cham sites, My Son or to Quang Ngai, the site of the My Lai massacre memorial. The massacre was a significant turning point in the Vietnam War and the story is told through photo presentation on a walk through the village.
Overnight: Hoi An | Breakfast
Hoi An - Ho Chi Minh City. Early morning flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Drive to the Mekong Delta. Often referred to as the ‘rice bowl’ of Vietnam, the fertile Mekong Delta is famous for its abundant harvests of tropical fruits, flowers and rice, as well as it fantastic views while boating along the canals. Taking our sampan from Cai Be we cruise through the maze of waterways watching the hubbub of daily life on the river. Passing colourful trading boats, house boats and children swimming we stop to visit some of the local cottage industries that produce popcorn, coco candies and paper along the way. Lunch is served today in a traditional wooden home on Dong Hoa Hiep Island.
Overnight: Can Tho | Breakfast, Lunch
Can Tho - Ho Chi Minh City. Early today we visit Cai Rang floating market and drive to Ho Chi Minh City. Once called the Pearl of the Orient, modern Ho Chi Minh City is a thriving metropolis on the move. Sleek sky scrapers, gourmet restaurants, designer malls and swanky bars and spas are scattered between ancient pagodas, colonial era landmarks and lively street markets. Our walking tour of Ho Chi Minh City includes visits to the Notre Dame Cathedral, Old Post office and the sombering War Remnants Museum. Evening at leisure.
Overnight: Ho Chi Minh City | Breakfast
Monday. Today offers free time in Ho Chi Minh City till your departure transfer to the airport. Opt for a relaxing foot massage, shop for souvenirs at Ben Thanh Market or visit the grand Independence Palace, with its secret bunker and military command centre beneath!
You could also extend your stay and join us on a day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels Here you can go underground to explore the vast network of tunnels and hideouts used by Viet Cong guerrilla fighters, see booby traps, trap doors or test your skill with an AK 47 at the firing range.
Cu Chi Tunnels - go underground!
Discover the Cu Chi Tunnels - a vast underground network of tunnels and hideouts used by Viet Cong guerrilla fighters during the 1960’s. Often lead by a relative of a Viet Cong fighter in green fatigues you’ll walk the bush trails discovering grass covered trapdoors, ingenious, yet gruesome booby traps and hidden underwater entrances in rivers. There is also an opportunity to go underground and pop off a few rounds at the firing range. Our Cu Chi Tunnels bolt-on includes return transportation to and from Cu Chi, guided tour and 1 night accommodation in Ho Chi Minh City.
Prices & Dates
Departure dates noted with a 'G' are guaranteed to operate. All other departure dates are guaranteed with a minimum of 2 persons. Prices shown are per person travelling. 'Twin/Double' prices per person apply when there are 2 people travelling, sharing a room. The 'Single supplement' applies for single travellers who require their own room and needs to be added to the 'Twin/Double' price. If you are happy to be paired up with another single traveller of the same sex on your tour, this can be arranged, thus avoiding the single person supplement.
The hotels listed below are ones which we frequently use on this tour. We reserve the right to substitute these hotels to ones of a similar standard when necessary.
Sunway Hotel, Hanoi
This ambient, boutique hotel combines traditional appeal with modern pleasures. Rooms are furnished in a contemporary fashion with an array of amenities for added comfort. Its restaurant provides a great variety of Vietnamese cuisine and you are welcome to enjoy cocktails and live music in the Jazz Bar or relax in the hotel's health spa.
Sol Bungalows, Mai Chau
Surrounded by emerald mountains and bamboo gardens, Sol Bungalows is set in the very heart of the Mai Chau valley. Its guestrooms are elegantly decorated and equipped with modern amenities including complimentary WiFi access. This secluded resort is the perfect spot to relax and soak up the dramatic scenery, with fantastic views over the surrounding lush rice paddies. An onsite restaurant offers delicious regional fare and guests can enjoy a host of other activities including a weaving class, traditional dance class, massage treatments, mountain biking and much more.
Bhaya Classic Junk Boat, Halong Bay
This premier cruise boat offers 18 well appointed cabins with en suite amenities. Cabins are contemporary in design, whilst the finer touches have a distinct oriental influence. All cabins feature large windows creating a bright and airy atmosphere as well as scenic views. Facilities and services onboard include a dining room and bar, a sunbathing area on-deck, masseur and small library. This boat departs from the port of Halong City and plies its route through the karst peaks of Halong Bay during their journey and overnight stay on the water.
Syrena Junk Boat, Halong Bay
A tradition hand crafted boat, the Syrena Junk Boat offers superb en suite air conditioned cabins with comfortable interiors and balconies. The on board Lotus Restaurant serves up a delicious array of Vietnamese and International cuisine. Complimentary Wi-Fi is available in the public areas. Swimming, kayaking and tai chi are all offered on board and movie nights are also very popular.
Mondial Hotel, Hue
Just a 5 minute walk from the Ho Chi Minh museum, the Mondial Hotel is a contemporary hotel with excellent amenities. Guest rooms benefit from spacious interiors, comfortable beds and lots of mod-cons. There is complimentary Wi-Fi for guests, an outdoor pool and onsite spa - perfect for a re laxing massage. As well as the delicious Huong Xuan Restaurant there is also the Lobby Lounge - great for cocktails before dinner!
ÊMM Hotel, Hue
Situated in the heart of the former imperial capital, ÊMM Hotel is the perfect base from which to explore Hue’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed sights. Completely renovated in 2016, the guestrooms are generously-sized and complete with modern amenities. The imperial jade and royal purple colour scheme was inspired by ancient Hue itself and guests can take advantage of the mini-gym, pool-side bar and a spacious reading area. Enjoy delicious Vietnamese and international cuisine in the contemporary restaurant after a day of exploring.
Vinh Hung Riverside Resort, Hoi An
Vinh Hung Riverside Resort offers luxury and gracious hospitality in a traditional Vietnamese environment right on the banks of the Thu Bon river with top notch facilities.
Thanh Binh Riverside hotel , Hoi An
Boasting a beautiful outdoor swimming pool, the Thanh Binh Riverside offers excellent accommodation in a great loacation. Guest rooms benefit from garden or river views and all come full air-conditioned, with stunning hardwood floors and all mod-cons. The onsite restaurant offers a great selection of Vietnamese and International dishes and the town centre is just a mere 200m walk away. Why not grab a cocktail and relax by the pool in the afternoon - a great way to refresh yourself from the Vietnam heat.
Victoria Hotel Can Tho, Can Tho
This attractive, colonial-style resort is tastefully decorated with well-appointed rooms and a wide range of facilities including a spa, tennis courts, open-air bar, restaurant and a gym. The hotel also offers sunrise and sunset cruises to the floating markets aboard the Lady Hau junk.
Iris Hotel, Can Tho
This elegant hotel is housed within a modern building in the city of Can Tho. Each guest room comes equipped with plush furnishings to ensure a good night's sleep and is decorated with a neutral palate and calming tones. Rooms look over the city and boast a range of modern amenities such as air conditioning and stylish ensuite facilities. Magnificent views of the city can be had from the hotel's skybar while a range of gourmet local and international dishes can be sampled at the onsite restaurant. The accommodation is just a few kilometres from the Cai Rang floating market.
Muong Thanh Centre, Ho Chi Minh City
Centrally located, yet on a peaceful, tree-lined street, you will find the Muong Thanh Centre. Only a ten-minute walk from top attractions such as the Notre Dame Cathedral, Opera House and Ben Thanh Market, this hotel is a great base for exploring the famous sights of the city. Its world-class rooms boast sophisticated designs and panoramic views. Warm and friendly, the Muong Thanh Centre also features a spa and swimming pool for you to relax and unwind after a long day of sight-seeing.
Northern Hotel, Ho Chi Minh City
Located in Saigon's central business district, the Northern Hotel offers comfortable and stylish accommodation. Guest rooms are contemporary in style and are decorated with warming tones and excellent en suite facilities. The onsite restaurant offers a variety of European and Asian dishes set on the mezzanine floor. The hotel also offers complimentary use of computers in the lobby and a fully equipped gym for those who wish keep fit whilst staying in the city.
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